“How well do you understand what’s happening to you?”
That was the genuine, non-condescending, realistic question from my counselor yesterday afternoon that got me thinking.
Initially I thought it might be sort of a trick question, with a right answer and a wrong one. I thought carefully, trying to consider every possible angle, mentally squinting to make sure there was no fine print I’d missed or bogeyman in the bushes I’d overlooked.
My answer was pretty straightforward, although I left myself some wiggle room. “I think I understand it fairly well, although I could be wrong.”
I went on to elaborate a little. I do feel myself getting stronger by the week. I do feel the trauma bond weakening and weakening, even if remnants are still there. I am still in modified contact with my ex and I do think of him far too often (still), but with the passage of time, I am thinking of him less and thinking of myself more. I’m finally prioritizing myself. I’m finally on my own radar.
I have indeed been considering various avenues of financial independence, whether I stay in my current marriage or leave. Lately, I’ve been leaning more in the direction of working toward leaving. Life is too short, after all. My husband is not exactly the proactive, willing-to-change, self-starter type.
My counselor said that both of the men in my life have narcissistic aspects that demand–if not command–me to be codependent. He said that it’s kind of scary, because codependency is dependency, which is just that – without them, you collapse.
At that point, it dawned on me a little more clearly exactly what he was getting at. While I’m still in contact with narcissists, it’s all-too-easy for me to slip back into that empath/codependent role, which they are all-too-happy to mould me back into.
My counselor asked a different version of the question: “How do you feel about what’s happening to you?” Again, I suspected that there were right and wrong answers to this one, too. My aim wasn’t to get it “right” in order to please him, but to be honest with both him and myself.
His intentions became a little clearer yet: he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t setting myself up for a “relapse” back into either of my narcissists’ arms, nor striking out on my own, without considering all the pesky details, like financial self-sufficiency. He wanted to make sure I wouldn’t end up opening myself up to another cycle of abuse and dependency. He wanted to make sure I was actually doing what I’m doing for myself, and not because someone else is trying to force or pressure me to change.
And honestly? I felt excited about the prospect of being on my own at some point, relying only on myself, only entering into another relationship only if I wanted to, not because I had to or because I was lonely or because it was convenient. I think it was encouraging to my counselor to get the impression that I wasn’t dead-set on a partnered life, nor susceptible to being lured back into a graveyard of what once was but is no more.
I also told him that this is all solely my own doing, and that it feels great. I’m sure that if given the chance, neither my ex nor my husband would have suggested I do this, preferred I do it, or wanted me to do it. I’m just strong enough a person that neither of them are attempting to stop me, but I’m sure it’s not their ideal scenario.
My counselor likes sailing analogies, so he said that it’s like a stern, which is a small component of a boat/ship, that must be focused in the right direction in order to lead the ship. It may be a tiny part of a big boat, but that tiny part determines the ultimate course of that big boat.
He said my efforts and vision for the present and future are like the stern, of this huge boat that is my life. On both the left and right are large obstacles–icebergs or mountains–and they look beautiful, but if the stern veers over too far to one side or the other, the boat could smash into them and disintegrate.
My own stern is straightening out somewhat, but it’s still a little wavy. I’m trying to determine which direction I’m going. My task is to laser-focus on my own path straight ahead, straight forward, without getting distracted by the beautiful obstacles on each side. This translates, into real life, as remaining laser-focused on my own career/financial independence and self-sufficiency, as well as inner strength and peace, and never losing sight of that, never let my stern get swayed.
The obstacles in the story, of course, are the narcissists. They are indeed distracting, and each is beautiful in his own way, but like real mountains or icebergs, they can be deadly to ships; just ask the Titanic. So, I have to continue to focus, continue to make efforts, continue to shrug off temptations. I have to strengthen my resolve and keep it that way. I need to thoroughly understand my options and my decisions so as not to bump that stern up against those huge obstacles.
And the space between said obstacles (narcissists) is quite narrow. I literally have no wiggle room. I need to keep my sights set dead-ahead.
One day at a time, my mom reminded me when we talked last. That’s all I’m responsible for, and that’s all I can do anything about anyway.
I have not texted with my ex much at all today, save for a few amicable lines exchanged this morning. I haven’t even thought much about him. Today hasn’t gone quite as expected; I figured I’d have gotten further down my to-do list by now. But Life Happens, and it’s okay.
I did have another win last night. I made buffalo chicken and rice last night for dinner, the first time I’d attempted it since the flop over three weeks ago. I corrected all of the mistakes I’d made last time, actually remembering to set a timer for the rice this time (!) and remembering to drain the oil from the chicken pan before folding in the buffalo sauce. A cool win for me!
I’m getting this shizz down, y’all. 🙂